China Military Budget Rise Reaffirms Its Goal in Region

Article excerpt

The country's military budget for this year is $132 billion, representing a larger percentage increase than in 2013.

China announced on Wednesday that it would increase its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion, a 12.2 percent rise over last year. The rapid growth in defense spending is another sign of Beijing's goal of becoming a dominant military presence in the Pacific, with a navy able to project power across the region.

The increase was greater than in recent years. In 2013, China's military budget increased 10.7 percent over the previous year. The country's military spending is the second largest in the world, behind that of the United States.

The buildup of the People's Liberation Army, which also includes navy and air force branches, is considered by many analysts to be consistent with the size of China's economy -- also the second largest in the world -- and its political influence. Nevertheless, the expansion is being closely watched by other nations in the region and by the United States, the supreme military power in the Pacific.

American officials have expressed growing concerns over diplomatic tensions in East Asia and Southeast Asia, much of it related to regional anxieties over China's military rise and its assertion of sovereignty over rocks, reefs, islands, fisheries and sea lanes in the area. The United States has said it does not take sides in such disputes, but it asserts it will maintain freedom of navigation.

Foreign military analysts say China's actual annual military spending is higher than the official figure. IHS Jane's, a defense industry consulting and analysis company, estimated that China would spend $148 billion this year, but such estimates can vary widely. The unofficial estimate is still much less than the military budget of the United States, which is officially $526.8 billion for fiscal year 2014.

Dennis J. Blasko, a former military attache at the American Embassy in Beijing and a retired army officer, said the 2014 Chinese military budget "won't break the bank, but it says to the troops: 'Thank you for your service. You are important to us, we support you."'

"A significant portion likely will be used for more pay raises," he added. "You may recall hearing some talk about how P.L.A. officers should be paid more than civil servants."

A major portion of the increase will go to "better, more realistic training," Mr. Blasko added. "The navy will also continue to train more at greater distances from China, which is more expensive than training in local waters," he said. …